Resources for learning how to PhD

man tries to reach the moon

[You can listen to this blogpost on my podcast too ]

When I began the process of gaining a PhD by publication, it was part of a ‘learning how to learn’ trajectory. I had completed the Learning how to Learn course (a free MOOC), I had read Scott Young’s book and followed his blog, and I was in the mindset of breaking everything down to its most basic component.

How do we take notes?

How do you do a literature review?

I took a course (another MOOC) on doing a literature review and that helped a lot.

I found Dr Helen Kara’s blog, whose style and approach have inspired me a lot. She writes about research methods –the process, not the content — and just knowing that this was topic worthy enough to research on its own has opened up many more conceptual doors for me.

Through her and Twitter and my new understanding of research, I have come across more writers on how to do research.

I find Raul Pacheco-Vega’s work invaluable. He explains things, he highlights the ‘hows’ of research. He breaks down all the tasks that lecturers and professors long ago internalised into their processes, and he clearly explains how to follow and learn from his methods.

I follow him on Twitter @RaulPacheco and his blog is at www.raulpacheco.org:

A very useful article of his I was reading this morning was about mind mapping the literature, finding the gap and writing paragraphs in your literature review.

I’ve been writing an article, an autoethnographic approach to understanding how one goes from citizen to journalist. When I look out to the literature, however, I often get overwhelmed by how much of it there is to map; how much there is to read. And there’s so much in other topics as well that it makes me pause in hesitation.

I was confronted with this idea of ‘there’s too much to learn’ yesterday and funnily enough, I had an answer straightaway.

My youngest went to the aerospace museum in Filton a couple of days ago. She went to see the Concorde at its last resting place. Tickets were £8500 she told me wide eyed and she knew that the last flight commander to bring that plane home was Captain Mark Bannister. These two bits of information were clear to her and she learned them straightaway.

I thought back to when I wanted to be a pilot when I was little, around her age and until I was much older. So, I asked her, would you like to fly a plane one day?

She looked at me and said, ‘No. The flight panel,’ she told me, ‘had a million buttons. Well not a million, maybe a thousand,’ she added with a nod and a look of you know what I mean? ‘How would I ever learn them?’

And that reminded me of how we do learn. ‘The pilot doesn’t start by learning each button on its own,’ I thought out loud to her. ‘The buttons probably fit in their own section. There might be eight sections on that panel. The pilot learns those first and then they look within that section to break down what different buttons do. That’s how you learn lots of things.’

She got bored at that point and walked off but now I have thought of an even better analogy — an actual analogy rather than an explanation. In a big supermarket, there are thousands and thousands of products. We don’t need to know all the products individually, we know that we are looking for bananas. We know there is a fresh fruit and vegetables section so we go there and look for the fruit. The things we need to know at any one time, are bounded. That’s comforting and manageable. Knowing how to approach a task gives us that sense of certainty. Knowing what the boundaries are for each task, helps.

When I was first doing a PhD, and even now when I look at ALL the literature that is out there, the vastness of it looks to me, like those thousands of buttons looked to my daughter in the Concorde. Learning how to do the next right step and process is comforting and makes research manageable.

From Helen Kara‘s and Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blogs I learned how to take notes for each paper –I use the ICA method and keep track in an Excel spreadsheet; I — introduction, C– conclusion, A — abstract. I copy and paste those three parts into a spreadsheet. I also use it to keep track of quotes and topics.

I have learned to note-take with highlighters in Microsoft Edge–a browser where you can use many tools on PDFs. I don’t have the space in our tiny flat to print out and keep track of all my research unfortunately. Maybe one day when I have an office.

Raul writes about learning to concept map by hand first but this site on concept mapping has really helped me. It helps find the linked papers to your own.

The tools help enormously. They make the difference between giving up and writing the next word, paragraph and even research paper. Most importantly they help with the writing and that’s the one thing I wasn’t doing enough of.

I’ve also found that using the highlighting method and the ICA dump helps me get to the end of reading a paper. One of my brain’s saboteur voices tries to stop me reading often by saying things like ‘why don’t you stop and research that part,’ or ‘you should be taking notes. What’s the point of reading if you’re just going to forget it all?’ etc. Well, now I am taking notes, I am highlighting and I am fulfilling the task I set for myself.

It all helps. I’ve written a first draft of a first paper. I’ve narrowed down the methodology I’m using, I’ve discovered a couple more research topics to pursue, I’ve submitted an abstract to a conference, I’ve written out my autoethnographic part, and now I need to map it to the literature.

And that’s why this morning I was reading Raul’s article on mind mapping the literature. I’m getting there, paper by paper.

The role of journalists

In Western traditions of news gathering, journalists are seen as being objective and impartial. Often they are complimented for doing investigative work or castigated for not challenging politicians enough. Ultimately, what comes across is that media consumers have some idea of what they think journalism is. When blogging platforms became easy to use and news creation costs were effectively slashed, a split began to appear between bloggers and professional journalists. Various issues rose to prominence — PR became indistinguishable from reporting and ads started to appear as straight copy. There are still stories of bloggers asking for free food in exchange for positive coverage, for example.

The key question that came up was who is or isn’t a journalist. To answer that and in the process link it back to citizen journalists, the first thing to do is look at the roles of journalism.

Roles of Journalism

A taxonomy of the four normative roles of journalism is provided by Christians et al. Those four are:

  • Monitorial
  • Facilitative
  • Collaborative
  • Radical

Tanja Aitamurto and Anita Varma (2018) add a fifth role:

  • Constructive

Constructive journalism is a type of journalism where a solution for how to solve a societal problem is added to the text. It is also called solutions journalism.

“A constructive role encompasses a wide breadth of journalisms, such as advocacy journalism, impact journalism, heartening journalism, future-focused journalism, transformation journalism, development journalism, and emancipatory journalism” (as cited in: Aitamurto and Varma (2018). Carpentier 2005, 206–207; Hanitzsch 2007, 381; Krüger 2017, 405–406), and has precedents in public journalism, peace journalism, and activist journalism.”

I include a table below from TA & AV about the roles of journalism. In what the authors call the Anglo-Saxon context of the media, journalism is more often thought of as monitorial–it monitors the actions of power; it observes and documents routine and unexpected events, and places a check on power. Its ideals are objectivity, accuracy and transparency. Monitorial journalism provides a watchdog function. The journalist is seen as a neutral observer ‘just reporting’ what they see.

Facilitative journalism provides a conversation about public issues. Its role is one of moderator between different political actors who want to resolve public issues.

Collaborative journalism is the PR/public relations branch of communication. It’s about giving institutions outside the media, a megaphone to advance their interests.

Radical journalism provides scrutiny of power and criticism of existing power structures. Its role is one of a critic and it advocates for change.

Internalising your role as a journalist

The four typical normative roles of journalism are usually embedded within organisations. By joining a PR company, for example, you learn a collaborative mode of communication. You embody and get taught a role by those around you. You report to an editor or a PR boss and are guided to what you can write. Journalists are hired because of their pre-existing outlooks and the type of work they do.

With advocacy journalism, however, not only does it go against the Anglo-Saxon leanings of ‘impartiality’ but it is also more likely to be found in citizen journalism. Citizen journalists are more likely to work as individuals without the top-down guidance on where their roles fit in the media and with their audience.

The lack of structure about which role to take up and the already established advocacy, which is seemingly in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon model favouring impartiality, could make it difficult for citizen journalists to feel they are an authoritative journalistic voice.

Advocacy, however, has never been far from journalism. Choosing who to interview and to whose voice to give prominence, are choices that can promote one perspective over another.

Tom Mills, in his book and research on the BBC, outlined a process of shift where instead of workers’ views being promoted, the voices of business and capital began to take prominence.

In the US, the same phenomenon has taken place according to research published by On the Media.

!The labor beat was sidelined in the ’70s in favor of business and money verticals, in pursuit of wealthier readers. The working class was left without mainstream outlets that spoke about — or to — them.”

Advocacy in journalism is inescapable because, in Fisher’s (2016) terms, “even unwittingly, the simple inclusion of a comment or perspective from a source by the reporter may inject a degree of advocacy to a story … The stronger and more passionately the sources advocate, the stronger the story” (722).

Media Lens have written about the process of how journalism works in practice by structuring the constraints of writers from the top-down. American political writer and media critic Michael Parenti explained powerfully how journalism works in practice. There are five stages of getting from an enthusiastic journalist to one who conforms to a media organisation’s needs. By the fifth stage, the lessons have been internalised to such an extent that you don’t even notice you’ve done it.

As a citizen journalist, however, the constraints are more horizontal than vertical. There isn’t necessarily a boss to tell you not to write something; you see that other people don’t write about certain topics, or you get no response when you do write about them so you don’t continue down that path.

If the ‘impartial’, objective and monitorial role is seen as the standard one, then this constrains the journalists who came to their roles in the media from a world of advocacy.

Starting to see constructive or solutions journalism as an actual journalistic role can help support citizen journalists in finding their own authority. The practice has been identified in the US since 1948 so it’s not new.

References

Tanja Aitamurto & Anita Varma (2018): The Constructive Role of Journalism, Journalism Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2018.1473041

Christians, Clifford G., Theodore L. Glasser, Denis McQuail, Kaarle Nordenstreng, and Robert A. White. 2009. Normative Theories of the Media: Journalism in Democratic Societies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Fisher, Caroline. 2016. “The Advocacy Continuum: Towards a Theory of Advocacy in Journalism.” Journalism 17 (6): 711–726.

Chalmers, David M. 1959. “The Muckrakers and the Growth of Corporate Power: A Study in Constructive Journalism.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 18 (3): 295–311.

Carpentier, Nico. 2005. “Identity, Contingency and Rigidity: The (Counter-) Hegemonic Constructions of the Identity of the Media Professional.” Journalism 6 (2): 199–219.

Hanitzsch, Thomas. 2007. “Deconstructing Journalism Culture: Toward a Universal Theory.” Communication Theory 17 (4): 367–385.

Krüger, Uwe. 2017. “Constructive News: A New Journalistic Genre Emerging in a Time of Multiple
Crises.” In The Future Information Society: Social and Technological Problems, edited by
Wolfgang Hofkirchner and Mark Burgin, 403–422. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co

Real enough?

Harassment of the mayor’s office

Further information to be updated

Becoming a journalist

In today’s thoughts, I’m looking at how we learn to frame stories and examine how this helps you provide authority in journalism.

There’s a scene in Frasier where Roz has just announced she’s pregnant and pretends to Bulldog that it’s his baby. She paints a scene that leaves him terrified and quaking. She then adds on that he was so tender in the morning, at which point Bulldog snaps out of his terror and realises it was a joke. ‘Good one, Roz. You had me going there.’ (link)

That one inaccurate or jarring fact, derailed the whole story. Admittedly, it was a joke story but it is a useful way of looking at how journalists learn to frame stories and how they and any activists soon learn how to stick to the main narrative.

There’s some wiggle room for a drop intro or a tangential anecdote perhaps but once you get to a point that can be used as a distraction from your story, then you’ve lost track of the thread.

For example:

Reporter: Do you admit, Mr Kent that you pulled that phone booth out of the ground when you visited the scene yesterday with your dog Rocky?

Clark Kent: My dog’s name is John. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about and I cannot take you seriously. (or they will answer the trivial question rather than the substantive one)

There’s a new book out called News Framing Effects by

Rooted in both psychology and sociology, framing
effects theory describes the ability of news media to influence people’s attitudes and behaviors by subtle changes to how they report on an issue.

I’ve mentioned previously when talking about the Canary and its lack of a certain newspaper/professional journalist style. How does one learn to write in a way that focuses the story, doesn’t let its content be used to derail the conversation, and is believable as an authoritative voice in journalism.

I want to look at this in exploring how citizen journalists gain their ‘authority’ voice.

When I asked the editor of a local magazine if his journalism course taught him how to keep questions focused so as not to be derailed, he said that wasn’t taught, it was just common sense.

Step one, find the literature.

sitting on the bench in autumn square (Uma painting)

Authority in journalism

Planning an article submission

If I’m going to get a PhD by publication then I need to submit some articles.

My first thought for this thesis, was to start with the authority a citizen journalist needs to (overcome) when starting out. As advised in the book ‘How to get your thesis by publication’, you need a smaller dissertation than of full-thesis PhDs, which will tie it all together, but you also need to have a set of publications that are different but linked.

As I’ve explored the social media effects on local participation, I’ve come upon the fact that much of the social media is separate from ‘established’ or mainstream media. The social media I am looking at, primarily, is conducted by citizen journalists. Being a citizen journalist can be daunting.

Some questions raised by Daniel Jackson in relation to this are: what does it take to feel confident enough to take on that public voice? to speak a truth, to write an article, to ask questions of an authority, etc.?

We look at this through grassroots organisations that have come together for citizen journalism purposes.

I use my example of writing my first long-form investigative articles about the Labour administration in Bristol.

What difference does it make to have a newsroom experience and a hierarchy of establishment media, as opposed to starting up without any support or guidance?

How does knowing media law help? or how does not knowing media law hinder? How do citizen journalists know what to write about?

How do they assess what is newsworthy? What is of public interest?

  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Main text
  • Conclusion

Questions:

Do citizen journalists need to believe they are making a difference in order to begin to internalise their position as ‘journalists’ and not just writers?

One definition of journalism is holding the centers of power to account (Amira Hass?)

How much feedback do you need as a journalist in order to feel like a journalist? See imposter syndrome:

In a mirrored fashion to a thesis by publication, the citizen journalist also may find themselves “‘going public’ at a very early stage of your research career — perhaps sometimes before you feel ready. (Lee 2010)

“Although going public is hard for anyone, it can be even harder if it is combined with ‘imposter syndrome’ — feelings of doubts and uncertainty about one’s capabilities. Kamler and Thomson’s description of the syndrome as ‘not feeling entitled to be known and seen as a researcher’ captures the core feature of this condition (2014, p.16).

Also see the reality of algorithms that privilege existing media over new media:

  • Filters on amplification exist and (Basu; Schlosberg) are the algorithms that define what gets shared and brought up on google, facebook, youtube, Twitter etc.
  • Gateways exist through which millions access news –“Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among the new intermediaries through which millions of us access news. Justin Schlosberg (2016)
  • Manuel Castells (2009), though critical of global media corporations, argues that social networking sites offer the means of ‘mass self communication’. They enable users to produce meaning interactively. Anyone can tweet, post or upload a video.”
  • Gateways, however, tend to reinforce mainstream news brands.
  • Schlosberg (2016: 120–2) reveals that Google’s news algorithm systematically favours large-scale and incumbent providers.

References

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2014) Helping doctoral students write: Pedagogies for supervision. New Yor, NY: Routledge.

Lee, A. (2010) When the article is the dissertation: Pedagogies for a PhD by publication. In C. Aitchison, B. Kamler, & A. Lee (Eds.), Publishing pedagogies for the doctorate and beyond (pp.12-29). London: Routledge.

bird with wings in the form of a book

In the Guardian, the clean air zone

In an audience with the mayor (July 2019), cllr Paula O’Rourke brought up some research she had read about in the Guardian to do with polluting cars. She said it was more robust than other analysis because it used MOT data (administrative data is a wonderful resource) and so could track which cars were the most polluting and where the owners lived.

She asked the mayor whether he would assess the research and pass it on to those who were assessing the clean air strategy.

For over 10 minutes he refused to contemplate it. When pushed for the last time, he said the research has nothing to do with him or his office but it is down to ‘brainy guys with big computers’ and not being done by officers.

This was very much a comment that followed Tory policy pronouncements about following the science. It’s ignorant to believe that science is anything but a matter of choices put through methodologies that need to be justified. Nothing just happens. If I choose to use a different set of measures than the latest set, this isn’t a matter of doing the ‘science’ or being brainy, it’s about a choice that will end up being erroneous.

It happens to the best of us. You may spend five years working on your PhD and then have to quickly try to evaluate a book on your topic that’s come out just as you’re about to submit.

More specifically, the CAZ research uses the index of multiple deprivation to assess who will be affected by the changes.

The question is, which Index of Multiple Deprivation data is the technical team using? A new set of measures was released in October 2019, which was just days ahead of the 5th of November 2019 cabinet meeting where the CAZ was decided on. I asked at Cabinet which year’s data was used and did not get a reply. As we can see from the comparison below, there has been a big difference in deprivation in relation to the quality of the local environment between 2015 and 2019.”

The research quoted in the Guardian was by the University of the West of England. [link] “Poor produce fewer traffic emissions than rich but are most affected – study finds”

The main benefit of this study and its conclusions is that it contradicts the mayor’s purported reasoning that he doesn’t want to charge people more because it will disproportionately because it will affect poor people the most. And that it quite specifically he isn’t trying to avoid the ire of drivers who will now be charged but only cares for the poor who might be charged.

His worry is not for the excess deaths due to air pollution in places such as Lawrence Hill, which is one of the most deprived wards in the city, but because they might be charged more, even though research shows they are less likely to own cars or drive.

So let’s see how much coverage has been given to the technical parts of the assessment, who determines ‘the science’, who are the ‘brainy people with computers’

  1. The mayor refused to even say he would suggest it to the technical team.
  1. The mayor refused to even say he would suggest it to the technical team.
  2. What has the news coverage been of this research?

Hypothesis to be checked: For the Bristol Post, the coverage has been focused on charging drivers, how much will they be charged, will they be charged, who will be charged, etc.

21 January 21

BBC Bristol

Bristol247

Bristol Cable

Bristol Voices

Bristol Agenda on BCFM

[to be continued]

human hands knitting sheeps (Rkl painting)

The solid steel ceiling of failure

Failure is my favourite word. Fail at 10 things a day and see how quickly failure loses its impact on you.

I’ve been inspired this evening and made to realise just how unbreakable that ceiling can be for citizen journalists or any media that doesn’t have millionaire backing.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better” – Samuel Beckett

And from Oprah:

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. – Oprah Winfrey

10 years before a sports reporter was finally justified in his claims that Lance Armstrong was a drug cheat, the Sunday Times weathered a £1m lawsuit [link]. They stuck by their reporter though. They even put out an ad for questions Oprah should ask Lance on her program.

And that’s just a whole different world from citizen journalists. If we had a million pounds or three, we’d set up a paper or a magazine. We’d even be local newspaper owners.

But the very first criteria seems to be a lack of resources. You are limited by what you can fight in court, what you can say that the wealthiest don’t want you to say, and what stories you can break as a named authority.

There is a limit to what you can do without money.

Further sources — rounding up

Social media has been in the news recently because the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, was blocked from a succession of them. One side of the argument says that censoring hate speech and speech that incites violence is an important element of freedom of expression (true) and the other suggests that when social media platforms form a monopoly, then censoring speech becomes problematic (also true).

Both cases have merit although Trump could start up a blog on a website of his own and write whatever he wanted. Would that be censored? He has a handful more days of office and could give a press conference every day — would that be reported? I imagine he would be. If he wasn’t then that would be problematic censorship.

However, it is local politics that I’m more interested in and how social media is used at this level. But I can’t just dismiss how it is used elsewhere so I’ve been looking at further literature on the subject.

Manuel Castell has updated his 2012 book Networks of Outrage and Hope looking at networked social movements;

There’s an excellent article I was sent about framed effects and the ‘protest paradigm’ when I mentioned the XR protest coverage in the Bristol Post. It makes the point about the watchdog and guard dog media.

Framing effects of Television News Coverage of Social Protest (2009) Douglas M. McLeod & Benjamin H. Detenber

Abstract: We investigated framing effects of television news coverage of an anarchist protest. Three treatment stories differed in their level of status quo support. Status quo support had significant effects on viewers, leading them to be more critical of, and less likely to identify with, the protesters; less critical of the police; and less likely to support the protesters’ expressive rights. Status quo support also produced lower estimates of the protest’s effectiveness, public support, and perceptions of newsworthiness. The results substantiate concerns about status quo support by showing that it can influence audience perceptions.

I found an excellent-sounding article on The Combined Effects of Mass Media and Social Media on Political Perceptions and Preferences.

AIC [abstract, introduction, conclusion]

Abstract:

Changes in political perceptions and preferences may result from the combined effects of news from various media. Estimating these combined effects requires the best possible, albeit different, measures of news obtained from self-selected mass media and social media that can be linked to panel survey data concerning perceptions and preferences. For the 2017 Dutch national elections, such data is available. Political perceptions and preferences are affected by news statements in self-selected mass media on issue positions, support and criticism, real world conditions and success and failure, in accordance with the theories on agenda setting and issue ownership, social identity, retrospective voting and bandwagon effects, respectively. Combined effects emerge because many people use both mass media and social media. The latter do more than just reinforce predispositions. Social media also have a mere exposure effect, and a multistep flow effect that amplifies news about party successes and failures from self-selected mass media.

Keywords: election campaigns, mass media, social media, partisan selective exposure, news effects

Introduction

Contemporary election campaigns are hard to imagine without voters being exposed to news from mass media such as radio and TV, and newer media such as Facebook and Twitter. The current study goes beyond the previous literature by directly addressing the research question: how are the perceptions and preferences of voters affected by self-selected news content from social media and mass media? Research into the combined effects of news from social media and classic media is still new for two major reasons.

Conclusion

This study is a plea for communication research into the combined effects of exposure to mass media content and social media content, based on the best possible, although imperfect, measures for each. Combined effects research is required to arrive at nontrivial advice on campaigning–and on the media coverage thereof. Which issues should be emphasized and which positions should be taken? Whom to neglect, support, or attack? How to mobilize endorsements from societal actors and the media? How to provoke the media and political adversaries with sharp criticisms and attacks? And above all, how to coauthor media events that will inspire the media to attribute success rather than failure to the party?

I have followed some researchers on citizen journalism and communication on Twitter. As I was scrolling through, they mentioned the idea of ‘minimal effects’ so I searched it up.

New methodologies for researching news discussion on Twitter [link]

[[with homeschooling taking place, and just generally having the girls home all the time, it’s getting a lot trickier to find 30 minutes at a time for my writing, but I’m trying]

strong coffee (series U)

How to do a case study

I have been trying to think how to present a story on the Impact Social reporting. There is so much information and all of it seems to need fact checking. The public are already paying £3000 a month for this information that seems wildly (or at times subtly) inaccurate.

A table format would seem the most useful.

There needs to be an assessment of what the response actually was and how to quantify it.

The council response to paying for this reputation awareness analysis is that residents have complex problems and the council needs tools to find out what these are in order to help address them. This implies that the analysis would be examining the local aspect of the reporting and would examine issues that affect residents.

From looking at some of the analysis, however, it is clear that the focus is on how the mayor is perceived in a general way and in relation to any category of branding.

The SDGs are the sustainable development goals promoted by, among others, NYC commissioners who the mayor has recorded promos for.

However, they have been criticised for their focus on economic growth as the vehicle for promoting sustainability. Philip Alston, the former UN reporteur on extreme poverty says: “Economic growth is at the core of the SDGs and presented as the engine for eradicating poverty. “But after decades of unparalleled growth, the primary beneficiaries have been the wealthiest. Rather than an end to poverty, unbridled growth has brought extreme inequality, widespread precarity in a world of plenty, roiling discontent and climate change—which will take the greatest toll on the world’s poor.” [link]

Not only are they not the method by which poverty will be eradicated, but they also don’t seem to link up to people’s awareness of what needs to happen in the city. It’s quite interesting to see that most of the points (when they are rightly ascribed as such) deemed to be positive and not grassroot responses from residents, they are business-linked and capital-linked issues

Local responses to mayoral actions are invariably branded as negative and they are littered with activities demanding justice for public services, funding, and behaviour. The very first words for the negative trends sections are “Continued activism from campaign groups”.

In the first report, the ‘local’ responses include campaigning to keep libraries open, metrobus spending and failures, criticism of public funds used to pay for £165,000 salaries for council employees, “complaints about cuts to services in deprived areas”, “increasing homelessness”, social housing, cycling, RADE criticisms about air quality, road safety, etc.

One example of a positive trend was the ‘dads and lads’ boxing promotion. The mayor tweeted twice about these events, promoting them as positive — one in February (before Impact Social began their reputation awareness monitoring) and one in April. In reply to the April Tweet was one comment about ‘punching the mayor in the face’ and how that could be a positive thing for engagement, and the other was about the sexist naming of the scheme, which then led the club to say that in fact its work was 35-40% with girls/females.

There were six RTs of the tweet, and these are important because they show that people want to publicise and increase the number of people who see the information. Three of the RTs were by people involved with the gym itself. I can only see five of the RTs on my account so the sixth one could be from someone who has blocked me or vice versa. So from the five, 3 were from the business, two were from people seemingly unassociated with it. The comments were primarily negative.

There were six RTs of the tweet, and these are important because they show that people want to publicise and increase the number of people who see the information. Three of the RTs were by people involved with the gym itself. I can only see five of the RTs on my account so the sixth one could be from someone who has blocked me or vice versa. So from the five, 3 were from the business, two were from people seemingly unassociated with it. The comments were primarily negative.

Two positive sentiments about Empire Fighting Chance were related to residents’ past dealings with the boxing centre and their community work. There was no new positive engagement but a link to past positive behaviour.

Also, see my review of Deborah Jump’s book on the criminology of boxing, violence and desistance [link]: How can this violent sport help in preventing violent crime?

novel writing on ancient a typewriter

Local/national responsibilities

The biggest news in the world right now, locally and nationally, is Covid and associated restrictions. It’s also a useful way to see about the limited powers local governments actually have. And the newsworthiness of it. And how news resources affect news agendas.

Yesterday, for example, was a big day for school announcements. We were told by the government that the schools should stay open but the unions and SAGE (and Independent SAGE) were calling for closures to avoid overwhelming the NHS and killing thousands more people.

Schools are funded through local government from a national-government determined school grant. Academy schools are not under local authority control but there are still some schools that are.

As we were waiting for news yesterday about what was going to happen with schools there was little information provided by local government. A local media organisation, Bristol247, began an update on decisions that schools were taking about closing or staying open; The main newspaper Bristol Post was reporting on closures or otherwise as well. There was nothing I could find on another ‘local’ paper, the Bristol Cable, about school closures.

Schools, and pot holes, and bin collections are the very essence of local government. In 2014, further responsibilities and less money were given to councils under the Care Act.

There’s a space here for trying to understand about how much of news about schools, and what type of news, is considered newsworthy and by which publications. How much of it as part of ‘use case’ process rather than a division through spheres of what is news?

You wouldn’t expect to see an update on the BBC of which schools are closing with the same level of detail as you would on Bristol247 or the Post (primarily the Post) but the BBC does provide a link to regional media sources (link).

One of my stories is about SEND and it got very little traction at all. Such low numbers. I’ve noted with other SEND stories, it takes a big effort to get coverage in the news. One of the issues for this, rather than any issue of deviant spheres not getting coverage, is that the system feels too complicated for many journalists. The issues in the story are multifaceted. The streams of income and responsibility are hard to decipher.

And similar may have been happening yesterday. The news sources may not have been sure what the council’s responsibilities were vis a vis schools. When I asked as to whether they would have expected a communication from the council, the response was that it was surprising they had not heard anything. They would have expected something.

Then there was a conversation about what it was that councils could do and how many schools were academies compared to local authority run– the answer wasn’t certain.

It turns out that 2 secondary schools and about half the primaries are locally run.

Basu (2016) does talk about this in relation to how journalistic practices such as cutting the number of reporters, eliminating specialist roles — we used to have an education editor at the Post but I’m not sure that role exists anymore — and centralising much content has reduced the complexity of stories covered.

Although I note that finding out which schools are closing or not is not a complex issue. Knowing the responsibilities of the council in relation to school closures, however, may just be. Not understanding a story may keep it off the news agenda as much as not wanting to run it for other reasons.

painting of carved door on white bachground
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